Sarah Everard was murdered nine months after Bidford woman Emma Homer was assaulted by PC Oliver Banfield and Warwickshire Police bungled investigation
The family of a woman attacked by an off-duty policeman in Bidford have slammed police assurances that “lessons will be learned” following the Sarah Everard case as empty words.
Mum of two Emma Homer, 37, was assaulted by now former PC Oliver Banfield as she walked home in the early hours of 26th July. She was just a few yards from her home when a drunken Banfield accused her of following him, shouted misogynist slurs and put her in a headlock and violently grabbled her to the ground while making a fake arrest.
The family faced an uphill battle to get justice after months of being stonewalled by Warwickshire Police, who investigated the case, and the CPS, who said at one point that there was not enough evidence for a conviction despite there being video footage of the attack.
Eventually, after an appeal by the family, a conviction was brought and Banfield, who was 25 at the time and a probationary officer with West Midlands Police, pleaded guilty to assault by beating, and was given a 14-week curfew and a £500 fine.
Emma’s aunt, Sally Homer, told the Herald this week: “Emma has experienced many instances where the criminal justice system is stacked in favour of the police rather than the victim. It took nine days for the police to come and see her after the attack to sign a statement.
“Police assured Emma that because the suspect was a serving police officer employed by another force, the investigation would be carried out with extra care and vigilance. In practice the opposite was true.”
Sally said she found it particularly frustrating to read the comments of Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe this week.
In a lengthy response to the Sarah Everard case, he said: “Tackling misogyny and the behaviour that leads to violence against women and girls is a significant challenge that we face within policing and within broader society.
“I know that recent events and the circumstances surrounding the horrific murder of Sarah Everard have given women cause for concern about their safety and undermined their confidence in policing. Repairing the damage that this has caused will take time, as trust is hard earned and very easily lost.
“I have pledged to make tackling violence against women and girls one of the key priorities of my police and crime plan and this includes misogyny and the culture that surrounds it.
“I am determined to see this change happen and it will be a theme that runs right through my term of office and beyond.”
Similar words of good intent were made after Emma was attacked and yet the family said they are still waiting for an apology, despite deputy chief constable Vanessa Jardine saying they were owed one.
“Emma was let down,” said Sally. “The police bungled the investigation and treated her so badly. Despite saying they would treat her case sensitively the reverse was true.”
Sally said Sarah Everard’s horrendous murder had brought back some of the trauma and issues surrounding Emma’s case.
“The misogyny is endemic across all of the criminal justice system – the police and the courts,” said Sally.
“Emma’s attack happened nine months before Sarah Everard died. Maybe if there had been more examination in the police about an off-duty officer fake arresting a woman, a bit more awareness of a lone policeman abusing powers, then who knows the outcome might have been different – that’s how serious the implications are.”
Commenting further Mr Seccombe said: “I know that actions speak louder than words and people will want to see demonstrable change.
“I have sought reassurance from the chief constable that there is a clear action plan in place to tackle violence against women and girls and also to ensure that the systems in place to tackle any wrongdoing within the force are robust, fair and effective and are seen to be so by the public. I will continue to hold the force to account on this.”
See further response from Warwickshire Police in next week's Herald.
WHAT THE HERALD SAYS: We need real changes
The most harrowing and gut-wrenching thing most of us will read this year is the impact statement from Sarah Everard’s mum, Susan.
“The feeling of loss is so great it is visceral. And with the sorrow come waves of panic at not being able to see her again. I can never talk to her, never hold her again, and never more be a part of her life.”
Unimaginable thoughts fill her head too. “Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what she endured,” Susan said.
Since Wayne Couzens’ life sentence was handed down, the establishment has been quick to trot out promises about “lessons learned”.
PM Boris Johnson simply instructed the female population to trust in the police. “My view is that the police do a wonderful job and what I want is the public, and women in particular, girls and young women, women of all ages, to trust the police.”
Meanwhile Warwickshire’s police and crime commissioner Philip Seccombe told the Herald: “Repairing the damage that this has caused will take time, as trust is hard earned and very easily lost.
“I have pledged to make tackling violence against women and girls one of the key priorities of my police and crime plan and this includes misogyny and the culture that surrounds it.”
Yet these comments come after Emma Homer, who was assaulted by a police officer in Bidford last summer, was treated appallingly and was promised an apology from police that she has yet to receive.
When the Herald tried to investigate the attack the police were uncooperative.
Time and again it seems the police are more interested in protecting their own, remaining a boys’ club endorsed by the PM, without any real hope of change by putting words into action.
In Sarah’s name and all the victims of male violence, we say enough is enough: time for something more than empty words.